Text and photos by Kelly Lovemonster
Back in February, The Transgender Erotica Awards (which made the switch from its previous name, the Tranny Awards, in 2014) took place in Los Angeles’ Avalon Theatre. The TEAs were started in 2008 by Grooby Productions and celebrate the community that acts in, produces and directs pornographic scenes that use transgender bodies. That evening, I was trolling Twitter for news about the event. I couldn’t help but notice the following tweet from trans male model Cyd St. Vincent.
A month later, St. Vincent and I were in the car heading to San Francisco’s Marshall Beach for our 4U Mag photo shoot. I had to ask about the incident that had inspired the tweet. To be honest, I was quite surprised you could get thrown out of an after party that ostensibly celebrates all the hot and nasty things you do on the Internet merely for getting a rim job in public. “I mean, I expected a warning at least,” chuckled St. Vincent. “I didn’t think they were going to actually throw Athena Adams and I out. Plus a rim job sounded like a good idea.” St. Vincent was nominated for Best FTM Performer of the Year at the TEAs. But he was also attending the high profile weekend to network and shoot with models for his year-old porn site Bonus Hole Boys.
Launched in December 2013 by St. Vincent and his business partner, director Ex Libris, BHB is unique not in the way that it differs from the industry leading gay male porn sites like Naked Sword or Falcon — it’s unique because of it similarities to those sites. It uses the same story lines, some of the same conventionally attractive models, often shares the same sets, as it does with Kink.com in the BDSM site’s historic Armory location. But unlike other gay male sites, BHB casts both cis and transgendered men in these familiar scenes. St. Vincent and Ex Libris want to shift viewers’ relationship with how transgender bodies are typically treated and fetishized in pornography. “The pretext is that this is a gay porn site first,” St. Vincent asserts. “There is none of the narrative of people being tricked or surprised that the trans men in our scenes have vaginas. The site is for men who enjoy having sex with other men.” And it’s true, BHB sets up familiar and comfortable narratives for gay men who watch conventional gay porn, the difference being that one of the actors happens to have a vagina.
There’s this unspoken knowlege that men do some pretty gay things in secret — on Boy Scout camping trips, in locker rooms, furtive sleepovers come to mind. St. Vincent lamented to me on our car ride about how he sometimes feels disappointed that he never got to participate in these homoerotic coming of age rituals. So like any good pornographer, he helped produce a scene with adult film stars Kipp Slinger, Sebastian Keys, Christian Wilde, and of course with a cameo by himself, that features that porn-famous scenario: the college frat initiation. “I really enjoyed producing this scene,” St. Vincent said. “[The frat initiation] has all your typical bro rituals like doing push ups, licking balls and eating a cum covered cookie.” Another one of St. Vincent’s goals was to produce a humiliation scene with transgendered men in which their gender identities weren’t shamed. “The scene and humiliation is focused more around being a new recruit,” St. Vincent explained. As a person who identifies as being both queer and trans, St. Vincent’s goal is to distribute images widely of gay trans masculine sexuality and create a site where the fact that the participants are attracted to each others’ bodies is a implicit assumption.
St. Vincent is also an escort and is an outspoken advocate for sex workers’ rights. He’s been a long-time employee of San Francisco’s St. James Infirmary, a health and resource center for the sex worker community. “I was fascinated by the outlawness of sex work from a very young age,” he said. “I was a slutty teen and I often had annoying experiences with men. I thought, ‘all these experiences would be way better with cash.’” While talking to St. Vincent it became apparent to me that the relationship between sex worker and john (a term used to describe a sex worker’s client) can oftentimes be deeply complex. “I’ve come to really appreciate the kinds of relationships that sex work brings,” he continued. “The job of a sex worker is to make your client feel really good about themselves, to see their positive attributes and highlight those.” St. Vincent began telling me about the deep and mutually beneficial relationship he had with his long-term client Jerry. “He was one of the first men I had sex with who I knew saw me as another man,” he remembered. “I felt really nurtured by our daddy/boy relationship.”
The porn actor and producer was born in New Mexico to an Australian mother and father from the United States. He openly talked with me about his experiences growing up and not fitting in, feeling like the other. “Doing sex work through transition, I was able to mediate those parts of myself that some trans men are told not to like. I was able to move through some of my dysphoria really fast.” That was why people like Jerry were so important. “Jerry’s lived a life feeling marginalized as well. He’s gay, HIV positive and older. A lot of our relationship is us hanging out and talking.”
We hiked down to the beach to our photo shoot location. The fog was heavy and covered the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m always a bit nervous to ask models to take their clothes off for my camera. But I wanted St. Vincent’s body in the shot. “I like being watched,” St. Vincent told me as he took off his shirt. “I like feeling appreciated.” Taking his lead, I asked if he would mind taking off his pants as well. He said yes. And then he said something that put his work, his dedication to Bonus Hole Boys, our conversation, in perspective. “Sex work taught me that I love giving pleasure, and I love people watching me. I started to form a personal sense of self through it. I started to figure out who I was. And through it, I realized what was other about me was that I was male.”
Many thanks to Shannon for his expert note taking.